Passive voice involved in mayor’s statement on officer-involved shooting

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

If you asked me what happened in Minneapolis Saturday night, I would say the police shot a woman after she called 911. Around 11:30pm, Justine Damond summoned police to address what she thought might be an assault in the alley behind her home. “Sources with knowledge of the incident” told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Damond, in her pajamas, was talking to one officer through the driver-side window of his patrol car when the other officer shot her from the passenger seat. It’s hard to understand how or why that happened—especially since both officers’ body cameras were turned off, as was the dashboard camera of their car.

Anyway, that’s what I’d say if I were a normal person describing what happened in Minneapolis this weekend. Here is what Mayor Betsy Hodges said about it, excerpted from her statement on Facebook:

Late last night, an officer-involved shooting occurred in the 13th ward, following a 911 call that two Minneapolis police officers responded to on the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South. Tragically, a woman was fatally shot when one of the officers discharged their weapon.

I recognize that Hodges has a legal incentive not to assign responsibility to city employees, but come on. To say that “an officer-involved shooting occurred” during which “a woman was fatally shot when one of the officers discharged their weapon” is an extremely roundabout way to say police shot someone.  It’s disrespectful to the loved ones of the woman they shot. It’s disrespectful to the reader, who understands what happened but is forced to interpolate it from Hodges’s subject-free juxtaposition of events. And considering the occasion for this statement is that a citizen called the police and they came over and shot her, it seems tone deaf.

This moment is when the mayor does not want to present city government as a mindless bureaucracy. She should speak in the language of ordinary people, not of death-notification robots. Now is the time to acknowledge how terrible this situation looks. I’m sure there is a good reason the officer A) didn’t want to shoot this woman but did have his gun out, with the safety off, in the car, or B) did want to shoot this woman, and C) turned off his body camera along with every other camera at the scene. Hodges should acknowledge the urgent need to know why these officers did what they did, instead of pretending it was a tragic event that just happened.

Friday links! Comedy versus reality edition

What's the deal with reactionary populism?

What’s the deal with Mexicans?

In a parallel universe, “Donald Trump runs for president” is a pretty funny sketch. It could be the cold open on Friday Night Fun, perhaps with host Michael Richards as his exasperated opponent. Comedy Trump is supposed to talk politics, but he only speaks in vague, hyperbolic terms about what a great businessman he is, and everyone finds it hilariously absurd. It helps that we all understand critical thinking from our free liberal arts educations, courtesy of President Sanders. Today is Friday, and the line between our world and one invented to amuse better versions of ourselves is thin and permeable. Won’t you try to distinguish comedy from reality with me?

Continue reading

Maybe we shouldn’t give everyone the power to kill somebody

TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were shot this morning

TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were shot this morning

A former employee of a Virginia CBS affiliate killed reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward this morning, shooting the two journalists and their interview subject at close range before turning the handgun on himself. Bedford’s WDBJ described the shooter, Bryce Williams, as a disgruntled former employee. If only Ward and Parker had been armed, they might have seen Williams preparing to shoot them and shot him with their superior training and reflexes. Or—and I know this sounds crazy—maybe we could stop selling devices that give every adult in America the power to kill somebody else.

Continue reading

Unpopular opinion: Some crimes can only be committed by the insane

James Holmes, who allegedly shot 60 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012

James Holmes, who opened fire on a Colorado movie theater in 2012

Today begins the trial of so-called Batman killer James Holmes, who armed himself with a shotgun, pistol, assault rifle and body armor; booby-trapped his apartment; and then opened fire on a late-night showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70. He also dyed his hair bright orange and mailed his psychiatrist a box of burned $20 bills. And he took this mugshot. Holmes appears to be crazy—not because he has kooky eyes and orange hair, but because he shot a bunch of strangers in a movie theater. Certain acts are necessarily acts of the insane.

Continue reading

The Indy fights fire with satire

Oleg Volk makes a reasonable argument in defense of the Castle Doctrine.

Oleg Volk makes a reasoned argument in defense of the Castle Doctrine.

First of all, if help is 20 minutes away, don’t beg for an easy death. Forestall death for 20 damn minutes, ideally by not getting into a cover-fire situation in front of a window at the top of an enclosed stair. Second of all, why do Markus Kaarma and his ilk live in a world where violence is both imminent and kind of awesome? After telling his hairdresser that he was “waiting up nights to shoot some [funky] kid,” Kaarma killed an unarmed exchange student in his garage and claimed self-defense. The penalty for burglary is death. The penalty for trespassing is death, provided you carry out the sentence in your home. Which would you rather live with: the knowledge that you killed another person, or the knowledge that you lost property out of your garage? Montana law protects people who choose the former.

Continue reading